Convention 2017

October brought about the culmination of a year of preparation for our annual singing competition: Convention.

This year, we hoped to improve on last year’s score, and a place of eighth in the country. Bournemouth International Centre was the setting, and an added bonus of hosting the European competition made this year’s event a bumper competition.

Making it an even more exciting affair was the fact that our chorus’ own MD (musical director) Emma McMannus, and her sister, Laura Phillips, were competing in the national quartet competition. A quartet includes four singers: a bass, baritone, lead and tenor, and expectations were high for ‘Soundhouse’. After qualifying for the semi finals with a huge score which put them way ahead of the second placed act, they breezed into Thursday’s final.

Joining Emma and Laura on stage were bass, Hannah Barber, and lead, Sally McLean. Their performance in the final brought many audience members to tears as the tender message of their ballad was mixed with the ringing chords which set the barbershop style apart.

Nevertheless, a tense wait for results had their watching chorus members on the edge of our seats. After the bronze and silver medal winners were called, finally the words we had been waiting for rang around the auditorium: “and the gold medal is awarded to…. Sound house!”

All their hard work had paid off and the girls were elated. Speaking the following day, Linda Corcoran, one of the previous Musical Directors of the Red Rosettes said ‘it was only a matter of time’ before Emma and Laura were awarded the gold medals their talent deserved.

While most gold medal wins would include celebrations well into the night, for Emma and Laura, after enjoying their win for a few short hours, their focus turned to the chorus competition the following day.

Although we weren’t on stage until half past two the Friday afternoon, our day began early with hair styling and stage make-up application, before the first rehearsal at 9am, and the second at 11am. The competition is serious business, and knowing that Emma and Laura had just been declared the national champions, made us all the more determined to perform to the highest standard.

With stage outfits on, photos taken, voices warmed up and final rehearsal time used, we prepared for our precious minutes on stage. Anyone who has ever been held before going on stage in front of an audience knows the thrill of anticipation, the nerves and the excitement. This is what the Red Rosettes had been preparing for for months.

As the curtains opened, our stage outfits of navy blue dresses with tassels, sequined tops and matching sparkly shoes gave a sense of unity, matched by the smiles of every member of the chorus. We opened with the ballad, ‘If Ever I Would Leave You,’ a tender love song taken from the musical Camelot. After accepting applause, we changed the mood to one suggesting a rather ‘prim and proper’ air to match the opening of the show tune, ‘Anything Goes’ and this time spins, clicks and dance moves were added to create a feast for the eyes (we hoped!) as well as the ears.

With appreciative applause from the audience, we really felt we’d done well, but had to wait till the following afternoon to discover our scores. Regardless, spirits were high as everyone felt we had done an excellent job.

We had the pleasure of sitting through the rest of the chorus competition and enjoyed watching the reigning national champions and the European champions – The White Rosettes – but it was a tense wait to find out how our own performance compared.

As well as enjoying the wealth of talent on show, the we took turns to sell some special raffle tickets. After the passing of Laura and Emma’s sister, Katy, in 2015, the family set up a special fund to help with the education of young barbershop singers, and this year were grateful to be offered a bespoke nativity scene, carved by master craftsman Ian Mitchell, to be used as a raffle prize over convention weekend. Thanks to the generosity of the barbershop community, the Red Rosettes managed to raise £400 for the Katy Phillips Young Barbershopper of the Year Award and Bursary. The winner of the beautiful prize said she would ‘treasure it’ for years to come, leaving the Rosettes delighted that it had gone to such a good home.

After the success of the raffle, we anxiously waited to find out if we’d improved on last year’s performance. Finally, while getting ready for the Saturday night show (which Emma and Laura would be performing in as quartet champions) the news came through: seventh place! Improving on our score and place from last year left us ecstatic, as we felt we’d really done ourselves, and our MD, proud.

The theme of the Saturday night party was ‘star for a night’. We relished the opportunity to wear ball gowns and red-carpet-worthy dresses for the evening, and every member wore a ‘star tiara,’ although it was Emma and Laura who boasted the best accessories: a shiny gold medal each, which they added to the following day, with European gold medals – an outstanding achievement. They weren’t just stars for a night; they’ll be barbershop stars forever!